He was dead. He’s not now.

25 04 2011

(If you’re an appreciator of art and you didn’t get a chance to see yesterday’s post, be sure to check that one out, too!)

When I visited Israel, one of the coolest parts was visiting the “Garden Tomb”.  It’s called the Garden Tomb, because there is a good amount of evidence to suggest that it is the tomb where Jesus was buried.  Here’s the story:

I. FIRST, there was this rock formation just outside of Jerusalem known as “Skull Hill” – because it looks a little like a skull.

"Skull Hill"

In the 1800’s, some started to wonder if this could perhaps be the same as the place that was known as “Golgotha” (“the place of the skull”) in the first century.  Golgotha was the place where the Bible says that Jesus was crucified.  This makes sense, because this area would have been along a main thoroughfare leading into the city, and the Romans commonly crucified people in a place that would be highly visible to those coming and going from the city.

II. Then an ancient tomb was discovered nearby.  The tomb was cut out of rock.  It was apparently unfinished (only one of the spaces for a body was complete).  The tomb also had a groove cut into the ground in front of it, where a large circular stone would have been rolled to seal up the entrance.

The tomb.

People started to wonder… could this be the place where Jesus was buried?  The Bible says that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man who had a new tomb (i.e., perhaps unfinished) nearby the place where Jesus was crucified.  The tomb was cut out of rock, and had a groove for a stone to be rolled in front of it. 

III. Later, an ancient cistern and winepress were discovered at the site.  Why is this important?  Because it tells us that this was not just a tomb, but a tomb in a garden (Cisterns were used for water storage, to water gardens.)  And not only a tomb in a garden, but a tomb in the garden of a rich man.  (Somebody who wasn’t rich wouldn’t have their own vineyard – or a winepress.)  The Bible tells us that Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, that the tomb was his, and that the tomb was in a garden.

Pretty crazy, huh?

IV. Finally, a closer look at the tomb reveals some significant details:  There is a cross cut into the face of the tomb, and a basin – apparently for foot-washing ceremonies – cut into the ground in front of the tomb.  The significance of this?  It strongly indicates that this ancient tomb was a site of Christian worship!

It's not a great picture, but you can faintly see the cross cut into the rock.

So we have to ask ourselves a question: Why on earth would anybody turn a tomb into a place of worship?

All in all, the evidence strongly suggests that this was indeed the place where Jesus was buried!

There's the foot-washing basin, and the groove for the stone to be rolle in front of the entrance.

Now, of course, we can’t exactly be sure about this.  But when I visited this place, I was really struck by how strong the evidence is.  It was amazing to duck my head to walk into this tomb, just as Peter and John may have done on Easter morning 2000 years ago.

In any case, it was just another piece to place atop the huge pile of evidence that has mounted throughout my life: evidence that God is real; Jesus really is the Son of God, the Chosen King; and he really did die, was buried, and rose on the third day.  I strongly suggest you call out to him and tell him you will submit to him as your King.

Happy Easter!

Inside the tomb. There on the left is the "finished" part, where a body would have been laid.

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One response

27 04 2011

Thanks for putting up these pictures along with your thoughts. It’s crazy to have [potentially] a visual of such a critical setting of a narrative I’ve come to love more and more. I found myself deeply longing to be in that place.

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